Slow and steady wins the race: that's the moral of Phillip Island. It cannot be said that Bagnaia was slow, but he was certainly not as fast as Martin who however - perhaps due to an excess of confidence - ultimately found himself behind Pecco at the finish line and even further away in the standings. After Jorge's record in qualifying, it was easy to bet on him, the world champion had moved up from Q1 to the front row, but beating his rival was by no means a given. Bagnaia leveraged his strategy and composure to bring home a 2nd place worth its weight in gold: "I controlled the whole race, I knew how big the drop was on this track and I worked all weekend only with the medium - he revealed the secret of his success - It wasn't easy to stay constant with so little grip, especially at the beginning of the race when the others were pushing so hard, but I knew that in the end we would be faster".
So much to take Martin back?
“I expected Jorge to have that drop earlier, but in the last 5 laps you could see that his bike was nervous. The tyres consumed 20% more than last year and we were faster than the 2022 race."
Did it surprise you to see him start with the soft rear tyre?
“I knew he would choose it, I imagined it because yesterday he did many laps with that tyre and was confident, but in the race it is always different. In the first laps it was difficult, I was worried when I also saw Binder go away, maybe I was keeping too slow a pace, so I pushed but not too much. Then, when I realized that Martin wasn't increasing his lead, I realized that we would catch him again: after 7 laps I was sure that the medium had been the right choice. So I thought about not risking crashing and trying to catch Brad and Fabio, in fact they started fighting each other and it was easy to get back under."
At a certain point, however, you seemed unable to follow them.
“I was afraid that Diggia and Binder had a better pace than me and I got close to them to get a bit of a tow, but when I got behind them the tyre started to suffer and I raised the pace. There was a moment when I had to give up, but I knew from last year that the race would be long and that we had to be careful with the tyres, I tried to do that."
Did you think you could win on the last lap?
“Zarco deserved it more than me, I tried to stay close to him, but he had more traction.”
Your lead over Martin has increased to 27 points.
“It's absolutely important, but you have to keep your feet on the ground because I know how quickly everything can change. In Barcelona I was more than 60 points ahead and then I lost the lead in the championship. A weekend like this is important because I managed to be fast even when you're struggling."
Is it a fight using your head between you and Martin?
“It always is, the important thing is to always be able to sort out the situation. Here we did it earlier than usual, since it's Saturday."
A sprint and 4 more GPs to run, who is the favourite at the moment?
“At the beginning of last year I said that I was the fastest and Quartararo the strongest. Now I think that Jorge is really very fast and very strong and we are competing in a different way than usual, because we only went head-to-head at the Sachsenring, where he won. It's difficult to say who is stronger at the moment: in India I was faster, while the last two tracks are not among those favourable to me. The next ones should be, we'll see what happens."
In the last GPs you have often started uphill.
“I’ve tried a lot to get the performance, I worked a lot with the tyres used in practice, with the medium, because we knew it would make the difference. I complicated things for myself by not entering Q2 directly, but it all helped. This morning I took another step forward, I managed to start on the front row and manage a tough race, very tough indeed, and in the end I was in front."
Did reversing the race and sprint change anything?
“If I had raced the sprint today we would all have done it on the soft tyre and we would have realized that using it in the long race would have been more difficult. With half an hour of practice, qualifying and the race it was a complicated day, physically I feel good, but mentally I'm tired."
Today you are on the podium with Zarco and Di Giannantonio, a result they have been chasing for a long time. In MotoGP is it a question of wanting everything right away?
“It took me 2 and a half years to win my first race and I arrived in MotoGP after the title in Moto2. The call for the official team came at the perfect time, in 2020 I was close to my first podium and I had a broken engine, then I broke my tibia in Portimao and on my return at Misano I made the podium. When you join an official team you have a responsibility that puts pressure on some, while for others it helps them to improve, as it was for me."